Spinal Fusion Surgery and PTSD

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: September 12, 2017

PTSD Spine Surgery

A recent study suggests that for one reason or another, roughly one in five patients who undergo a spinal fusion develop some type of post-traumatic stress disorder after their operation. The mental issue may not surface until months or even years after surgery, but that percentage suggests that not enough is being done to treat the mental health concerns of patients after a surgical operation. Below, we explain why PTSD and spinal fusion operations may be linked, and how to prevent and treat it.

PTSD and Spine Surgery

Post-traumatic stress disorder is more commonly linked to individuals who have served in the armed forces or who have suffered personal violence on some level, so why are roughly one in five patients who undergo a spinal fusion developing some form of the condition? For starters, many of these patients are developing PTSD symptoms due to the trauma that led to the need for fusion, not the fusion itself. For example, if you got in a car accident that resulted in the need for spinal fusion, you may feel anxious or stressed when you’re in a car in the future. So while you were a spinal fusion patient and you developed some form of PTSD, it was in no way related to the surgery itself.

However, there are individuals who undergo elective spinal fusion that end up developing some form of PTSD. According to the study, the biggest risk factor for developing a form of PTSD after spinal fusion was the onset of depression or an anxiety disorder prior to the initial operation. Knowing this, doctors can take actionable steps to greatly reduce a person’s likelihood of developing a mental health disorder after their spinal fusion.

Preventing PTSD After Spinal Surgery

As we alluded to above, preventing the onset of PTSD after spinal fusion actually begins prior to the operation. Doctors should be conducting mental health screens prior to moving forward with an operation, and if there are warning signs, the mental health issues should be taken care of before surgery.

Study authors also suggested that knowledge may also play an important factor in preventing PTSD after spinal fusion. Patients who know more about their operation and their rehab are less likely to be stressed or anxious both before or after the operation. Both stress and anxiety can trigger a pre-existing depressive condition or it can contribute to the onset of PTSD. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your upcoming operation or what you should expect in the days after surgery. The more you know, the more you can prepare for, which helps to eliminate stress.

Exercise is also another great component of a healthy mindset after surgery. It may not be possible to go for a run in the first week after surgery, but doing some acceptable exercises will help put you in a good mindset to make a full recovery after your operation. You’d be amazed what a 30 minute walk with a friend or family member can do for your spirits after surgery.

For more information on how we try to help all our patients manage the physical and emotional aspects of their surgical operation, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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